Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Music Director Updates, Shocking and Not

Yes, it's true, I have not yet posted about the terrible news from my local orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, whose Board and CEO foolishly did not bend over backwards to retain Esa-Pekka Salonen as music director. I swear I'll get to it this weekend.

New news:
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen to leave the San Francisco Symphony when his contract expires at the end of 2024-25.
  • Klaus Mäkelä will be the next music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra WTF. As we know, every 28-year-old conductor should be in charge of two of the world's great orchestras plus a couple more that aren't quite on that level. I'll have more to say about this, too.
  • Jaap van Zweden will be the new music director of the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra from mid-2026. (Maybe he didn't really leave the New York Philharmonic to spend more time with his family; he is also the music director of the Seoul Philharmonic.)

Open positions:

  • San Francisco Symphony
  • Phoenix Symphony
  • Cleveland Orchestra, as of June, 2027.
  • Paris Opera is currently without a music director.
  • Nashville Symphony, when Giancarlo Guerrero leaves.
  • Deutsche Oper Berlin, when Donald Runnicles leaves.
  • Hallé Orchestra, when Mark Elder leaves.
  • Rottedam Philharmonic, when Lahav Shani leaves.
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic, as of 2026-27, when Gustavo Dudamel leaves for NY.
  • Sarasota Orchestra, following the death of Bramwell Tovey.
  • Seattle Symphony, following Thomas Dausgaard's abrupt departure in January, 2022.
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where Riccardo Muti left at the end of 2022-23.
  • Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: open in 2024 when Louis Langree steps down.
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic, when Jaap van Zweden leaves in 2024.
  • Oakland Symphony, owing to the death of Michael Morgan in August, 2021.
  • Teatro Regio Turin: Open now with departure of Gianandrea Noseda. The Teatro Regio has not named a new music director.
  • Minnesota Opera: Michael Christie has left. MO has not named a new music director. 
  • Marin Symphony, at the end of 2022-23.
  • Vienna Staatsoper, when Philippe Jordan leaves at the end of 2025.
Conductors looking for jobs (that is, as of the near future, or now, they do not have a posting). The big mystery, to me, is why an orchestra hasn't snapped up Susanna Mälkki. Slightly lesser mystery: Henrik Nanasi, whose superb Cosi fan tutte is still lingering in my ears.
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen, if he wants such a position again
  • Tito Muñoz 
  • Andrey Boreyko
  • Osmo Vänskä
  • Susanna Mälkki, who left the Helsinki Philharmonic at the end of 2022-23.
  • MGT (apparently does not want a full-time job, as of early 2022)
  • Miguel Harth-Bedoya (seems settled in at Baylor)
  • Lionel Bringuier
  • Sian Edwards
  • Ingo Metzmacher
  • Jac van Steen
  • Mark Wigglesworth
  • Peter Oundjian
  • Ilan Volkov
  • Aleksandr Markovic
  • Lothar Koenigs
  • Henrik Nanasi
  • Philippe Jordan, eventually
  • Franz Welser-Möst, eventually
And closed:

  • Marin Alsop becomes principal guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, I believe succeeding Nathalie Stutzmann.
  • Simon Rattle becomes principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharonic.
  • John Storgards will becomes chief conductor of the Turku Philharmonic.
  • Update and correction: San Francisco Chamber Orchestra was unable to hire Cosette Justo Valdés. Instead, Jory Fankuchen, a violinist in the orchestra, has been named Principal Conductor and will lead this season's programs.
  • Indianapolis Symphony hires Jun Markel, effective September 1, 2024.
  • Andris Nelsons renewed his contract with the Boston Symphony. He's now on an evergreen rolling contract, which will continue as long as he and the orchestra are happy with each other. MTT had one of these at SFS.
  • Shanghai Symphony, with the appointment of Long Yu.
  • Virginia Symphony, with the appointment of Eric Jacobsen.
  • Warsaw Philharmonic, with the appointment of Krzysztof Urbański.
  • Bern Symphony, with the appointment of Krzysztof Urbański.
  • Berlin State Opera, with the appointment of Christian Thielemann.
  • Dresden Philharmonic, with the appointment of Donald Runnicles.
  • New York Philharmonic, with the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel. Note that Jaap van Zweden leaves in 2024 and there will be a two-season gap before Dudamel arrives.
  • Helsinki Philharmonic: Jukka-Pekka Saraste to succeed Susanna Mälkki.
  • Staatskapelle Dresden, with the appointment of Daniele Gatti.
  • Seoul Philharmonic appoints Jaap van Zweden.
  • Royal Opera appoints Jakub Hrůša to succeed Antonio Pappano in September, 2025.



CruzSF said...

In case you haven't already seen this, Alex Ross has some thoughts on Mäkelä's news.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you - yes, I have seen it and it will figure prominently in my discussions of both EPS and Mäkelä.

CruzSF said...

Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

Matthew said...

Mäkelä doesn’t exactly have the best reputation among critics. I think this is a big step down for the CSO. I’m also going out on a limb to say I think the SFS board is being responsible. I also think Salonen is a great conductor who has made no connection to the city and our community. There is a chance for the board to appoint a fresh conductor willing to make overtures to the community.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Mäkelä's program at SFS was good, not great; we've had more impressive young conductors.

That's a good point about Salonen's involvement with the city and community, but it's worth remembering that SFS has cut back on its own educational and outreach commitments during his tenure.

Say more, though, about the board "being responsible." In what ways? It's not clear that they're broke, just have no money for anything, especially when they're looking at what would surely be a half-billion dollar renovation of Davies.

Geo. said...

A few updates (sorry for not posting about the oldest of them earlier):
1. The Hallé: Kahchun Wong becomes their new principal conductor in 2024-2025. This was announced in June 2023.
2. Minnesota Opera: Christopher Franklin is their new principal conductor, since last December.

More recently:
Lionel Bringuier: now principal conductor of the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, as of the current season
Peter Oundjian: currently principal conductor of the Colorado Symphony, since Feb. 2022
Mark Wigglesworth: he becomes chief conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra next season.

Random reflections on other conductors on your list:
MG-T: she has three young children. At the risk of a rhetorical question, why on earth would she want an orchestral post, with three kids to raise?
Long Yu: he's been MD with the Shanghai Symphony since 2009. Not sure he belongs on this list.

Some other conductors to suggest for your list:
Elim Chan (leaving the Antwerp Symphony after next season)
Kirill Karabits (leaving the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra after this season)

Now, for the conductor whom David Hurwitz and Alex Ross, among others, really love to hate now. Just speaking for myself, based on the recordings and videos that I've sampled, I'm not a particular fan of Klaus Makela. Example: I listened to the whole of his Sibelius cycle for Decca, and thought: "that's it?" But reading between the lines of various reports before Zachary Woolfe's NYT report from Chicago late last week, I inferred a scenario as to why so many orchestras have flipped for him so much so quickly (and wish that I'd posted about it before ZW's recent article). Namely, my sense was that Makela is an extremely charming, articulate, and affable "plays well with others" kind of conductor who treats orchestra musicians very well, doesn't waste time in rehearsal, knows what he wants, and gets what he wants from orchestras very quickly. As it turns out, IMHO, what he wants is generally not all that interesting, and 'meh' in the extreme, at least so far to me. But having a happy orchestra is so much of the battle when it comes to the act of music-making. A happy atmosphere beats an unhappy atmosphere, doesn't it?

Whether the hardcore classical folk like it or not, many orchestras evidently love working with Makela, for those reasons just enunciated, and which Zachary Woolfe encapsulated in print for the NYT just a few days ago. Likewise, whether one likes it or not, perhaps orchestras aren't nearly as thrilled with some, if not all, of the other very good conductors who are still on the shelf now and aren't racking up the big (or even not-so-big posts). After all, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra doesn't have a "search committee" as such when it chooses its chief conductor. The Concertgebouw Orchestra musicians, and no one else, choose their chief conductor. They are the search committee. Likewise, if one accepts what was in Hannah Edgar's Chicago Tribune article on the Klaus Makela announcement, the CSO musicians were overwhelmingly in favor of him. Their preference was not imposed on them externally. Going back to the Oslo Philharmonic, they offered Makela the job based literally on "one date". The story seems similar with the Orchestre de Paris.

Again, for good or ill, the other very good conductors "on the shelf" don't seem to excite orchestras in the same way. Chemistry between an orchestra and a conductor cannot be forced. When a given orchestra and a given orchestra meet for the first time, the chemistry either happens of its own volition, or it doesn't. With those 4 orchestras and Makela, whether we like it or not, it happened.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, George! This is also my impression of what makes Mäkelä so attractive:

Namely, my sense was that Mäkelä is an extremely charming, articulate, and affable "plays well with others" kind of conductor who treats orchestra musicians very well, doesn't waste time in rehearsal, knows what he wants, and gets what he wants from orchestras very quickly.

And those are important skills for a conductor, but the lack of compelling interpretations is a big concern.